Crafting an Unencumbered Life

Crafting an Unencumbered Life

Category : 2020

A year that often seemed upside-down and had an eerie resemblance to the movie Groundhog Day, gave us some valuable, albeit unanticipated lessons (thanks to the internet)—

  • We now understand why the dog gets excited every time a car drives by or he goes for a walk.
  • We admit the house is not dirty because we are never home and have no time to clean.
  • We realize being grounded by our parents as an adolescent was preparation for 2020.
  • If caught talking to ourselves, we can tell our kids we are in a parent-teacher conference.
  • We believe that someday we will again have enough toilet paper to use it to decorate yards.

Whiplashing to a more serious perspective, Poet Maya Angelou insightfully said, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” As we bring 2020 to a close, each of us can choose whether to allow the circumstances, adjustments, pain, loss, and even grief of this year to change us—or reduce us.

One way to leave this year reduced rather than enlarged is to trudge into 2021 carrying a load of personal, relational, or emotional clutter—to start the year encumbered. Unfortunately, many people manage their lives like they manage their stuff. They don’t lighten the load by getting rid of what no longer has a purpose— they just move stuff to another place and re-fill the vacant spaces with more things.

A cluttered life is an encumbered life. It is hard to move freely and respond to opportunities when your outer world gets full of things you no longer need. More importantly, it is difficult to think clearly and embrace new ideas after a difficult year, when your inner world becomes cluttered with thoughts and emotions that slow you down like dragging an overloaded suitcase down the sidewalk of a busy city.

After making it through a year marked by unprecedented levels of uncertainty, you might dream of escaping (when you can travel again) to some remote spot in the world where life is simple and moves at a slower pace. Then, you look at your desk and remember you are invested in a career. You have responsibilities you can’t neglect. There are roles in your world that only you can fill. Becoming a Sherpa in Nepal is no longer a rational career move.

So how does someone who has weathered a year like none before it, who faces new levels of competition in the market, and for whom innovation must become a way of life embark on the next 12 months unencumbered? Here are three places to begin.

Get over it. It will take time to move through and past the agonizing losses of businesses, jobs, and loved ones. Those journeys cannot be rushed. But leaving this year overloaded with resentments, unresolved anger, and a need to correct perceived inequities piles us with a weight we were not built to carry. Life isn’t fair—especially life in 2020. Nice people experience unimaginable tragedies. Even the most talented lose jobs. Regardless of what happened in 2020, keeping a box of resentment in the back of your mind is a waste of space and an energy drain you can’t afford.

If you’re finding it difficult to get free of resentment and dump what is past, get some help. Debate your tough questions with a business accountability partner. Find an executive forum where you can engage with others on the same journey and benefit from their wisdom. If you need the help of a skilled counselor, don’t be afraid to get it.

Do whatever it takes to clean out the closet of resentments in your life. While allowing the lessons to change you, holding onto losses or injuries will only reduce you.

Think some original thoughts. A mind full of conflicting news feeds, one-dimensional tweets, banal social media banter, and endless memes leaves little space for new ideas. It is difficult to give birth to concepts that are uniquely yours while allowing your mind to be constantly filled with the opinions of others. Put your phone in a drawer for a couple of hours. Unplug your headphones. Read something that was written before 1900. Make room in your mind for original ideas that grow from the rich soil of deliberate reflection. Every innovation we enjoy today was, at some time, a thought no one had pursued before. James Allen reminds us, “Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain or rise with your thoughts … You will become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration.” 1

Check your attitude. Like boxes collecting in your attic, practiced behaviors reflect themselves as attitudes—settled ways of thinking, that multiply, and quickly fill whatever space they are allotted, usually spilling over into dimensions of life where those attitudes negatively affect others. In too many chapters of 2020, you were forced to admit you do not control much of what happens to you. You do control the mental frameworks and beliefs that guide your responses to life’s events. The quality of your coming year depends far less on a vaccine, political party, or economic revival than it depends on how you choose to look at life. If you want to live freely in the coming year, begin by nurturing an attitude of optimism, gratitude, and hope.

We would be remiss to close the year without thanking you for your partnership, trust, and engagement during 2020. We are a better company because you are part of what we do. We wish you perspective on the year we are closing and a new year bright with opportunity.

1 Allen, James. As a Man Thinketh in Motivational Classics. Life Management Services, 1983. Page 136.
Adapted from Sharpen Your Life, copyright ©2016, Joseph M. Jordan/Jordan Development, Inc. Used by permission.